Aspinwall, C. et Narayanan, S. et al
In an attempt to improve “efficiency” and pivot towards a “consumer-centric” approach, several scientific journals have begun outsourcing the peer review to the anonymous users of Goodreads. Editors have been impressed with the devastating harshness of the reviews.
“They’re absolutely brutal,” delighted Dr. Francis Woolman, one of the first editors to allow random Goodreads users review scientific manuscripts. “I never knew papers needed likable protagonists!”
While scientists have widely derided the approach as “a goddamn free for all” and “the end of peer review and the American empire,” they are pleasantly surprised at how many more views their papers are getting.
“My paper from a few months ago already has 200 reviews,” said PhD candidate Calvin Hu. “Unfortunately pretty much all of them hurt my feelings.”
Critiques by the Goodreads users include, “this experiment was boring to read,” and “too detail oriented.” One reviewer even commented, “Worst cookbook ever, I was sick for a week,” sparking serious conversation into how to best communicate cutting-edge science to those who may not know how to read.
While some comments were just plain hurtful — Hu’s paper received one saying “methods section was just a citation of their past paper. Bitch, I didn’t download that!” — others were more constructive.
“Someone said that my write-up was strong, but that “all the experiments were fundamentally stupid,’” says Evan Ino, one of the first to be published on Goodreads Science. “The worst part is that I think they’re right.”
Discussion into the artistic value of scientific papers lead many to note the didactic nature of the methods section. “Dry, factual, and uncompelling,” wrote ☾EtherealMoonstone2284, best known for their reviews of romantic poetry. “A challenging but rewarding take on the ‘Slow-growth crystallization of hemi-functionalized carbon nanowires’ as a metaphor for grief,” commented h-u-b-e-r-t.
Despite the backlash, Goodreads has been looking to move some of its top reviewed papers to Audible. Now you can do the journal club reading during your morning run, shower, meal, or shit. No excuses!